Abraham Lincoln, Military Commission for J.H. Pell, Signed; includes ephemera


A Commission and Photos from a Veteran of the Famed First Minnesota!

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Military Commission Signed by Abraham Lincoln for Captain John H. Pell as “Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers With the Rank of Captain” effective 25 May, 1863. Pell, formerly an officer in the famed First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry regiment, continued in his duties until his resignation on 28 March, 1865.

The collection includes the framed commission and two photographs. One, a post-war portrait of Pell, framed, and labeled in manuscript “John H. Pell.” The other is a matted group photo of Pell with Alfred Sully, Colonel of the First Minnesota and later Brigadier General of Volunteers, and other officers. This photograph is labeled on verso “Mr. J.H. Pell / and some of his / friends who were / with him in the / Civil War, Western / Men.”

John H. Pell was commissioned captain of Company I, First Minnesota 29 April, 1861, and served in that role during the first two years of the regiment’s service. This experience included combat at the battles of First Manassas, Ball’s Bluff, The Peninsula Campaign, Fair Oaks, and the Seven Days Battles, and the Battle of Antietam. Records indicate that Pell was briefly captured following Antietam, possibly near Charlestown, Virginia. 

Historian Richard Moe notes that Pell arranged to have the men of his company photographed in groups while in camp at Edwards Ferry, Maryland, in 1861. Pell left the regiment just before the Spring campaign of 1863, and the near-destruction of the First Minnesota in their heroic charge at Gettysburg, 2 July, 1863. Alfred Sully, pictured with Pell in the group photo, was appointed Colonel of the First Minnesota 3 February, 1862, and was promoted to Brigadier General 26 February, 1862. This likely dates the group photo at that time.

Commission matted and framed; signatures and writing clear but light; navy blue seal chipped at fold with minor loss; otherwise a handsome commission well-presented; portrait of Pell faded but clear with label “John H. Pell”; group portrait still dark with fine contrast and a rich “plumb” look, especially in the uniform coats; matting stained at edges, but not affecting image.

Lincoln, Abraham.  Partly-printed Document, Signed in full “Abraham Lincoln” as president. Washington: 25 May, 1863. Counter-signed by “Edwin M. Stanton” as Secretary of War.  1p., 18″ x 14” sight; 25” x 20” framed; with albumen photo, 4” x 5” matted, of Pell with General Alfred Sully and other officers, and post-war albumen portrait of Pell 4” x 5” sight; 9” x 10 1/2“ framed.